Skip to main content

Reply to this post | Go Back
View Post [edit]

Poster: Reade Date: Nov 21, 2012 2:29pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: American Masters (indirectly Dead related if you follow me))

Last nights profile on the '70's music agent who would go on to become media mogul David Geffen was pretty darn good.

Back in the day he represented the likes of the Byrds, Crosby Stills and Nash, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Cher, the Eagles; a veritable who's who of the seventies Southern California music scene. Founded Fantasy Records. That Dylan tour with The Band in '74, and the resulting live album, and the Planet Waves album that the tour was promoting....all his idea. Neil Young, David Crosby, Robbie Robertson, Glenn Frey and many many others are featured at length.

While his larger than life qualities inspired the use of many adjectives from those who sat for interviews, they all agreed he was unfailingly honest. Never cheated anyone out of a nickel. Crosby's typically intelligent and insightful contributions included the following: 'We didn't need someone who was smart about music. We needed someone who was smart about money and business.' And, 'We knew we were in a shark tank'(the music business). 'We needed a shark of our own.' While long on business acumen, Geffen was portrayed as very straight and not in the business, as were so many others, so he could party with the stars. That wasn't his thing. Of his improbable relationship with Cher, she said, 'All my friends told me I wasn't smart enough for him, and he was too straight for me.'

This all caused me to reflect on Jerry's predilection for surrounding himself with people who were a little, or a lot, bent. (Just look at his bandmates). That thing of totally dismissing all elements of the straight world as they were perceiving it at the time, personified perhaps best of all by Joe Smith, Warner Brothers, etc. But look what happened as they were ripped off so badly not once but at least twice by guys- business managers- who turned out to be a little too bent.

It's interesting to reflect on how the Grateful Dead may have been a whole lot better served if they had been more open to the 'straight' world, and had just known one or two of the 'right' straight people!

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: Monte B Cowboy Date: Nov 22, 2012 8:15am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: American Masters (indirectly Dead related if you follow me))

Re: "unfailingly honest"
When Geffen first went out to L.A., he was fired from six jobs in the movie business because he had no talent and he knew nothing. Then he met a casting director who told him, "You should become an agent. You can be an agent and know absolutely nothing." So, Geffen says, "That's the job for me."

He goes back to NY in 1964 and applies for a gig at the William Morris ad agency. "I'm not going to get the job if I tell the truth," says Geffen. So he lies on his application about graduating from UCLA and having lots of job experience, like working as a production assistant on the Danny Kaye show. The agency hires him the next day and gave him a job working in the mail room.

Then one guy he worked with in the mail room got fired for getting caught lying on his application about going to College. That's how Geffen found out that his employer always checked out the schools where its employees claimed they graduated.

So Geffen "goes to work early every day for the next six months" so he could go through all the mail and look for "the letter" from UCLA. He finally found the letter, and he changed it to say he had graduated from UCLA in 1964. "That's how I started my career at William Morris," says Geffen.
Geffen reminds me about myself. He worked inside the money system part of the entertainment business and did whatever it took to have a lifestyle making lots of money. I also worked inside the money system part of the entertainment business, but I flanked whatever it took to stay away from a money-making-based lifestyle. Throughout our lives loyalty and honesty matter hugely to both of us.

I never wanted a lot of stuff. I always wanted to be independent. I also fell in love with camping and backpacking and living an outdoors lifestyle at an early age. Shows I taped (the ways I did it) required this type of lifestyle. Ditto for when I was a soundman. My taping shows led me to have a career in electronics where I was expert at working on tape recorders used by the entertainment business.

Geffen is about ten years older than me. He became a billionaire and fulfilled his childhood dream by buying Jack Warner's mansion in Beverly Hills. David Geffen purchased the 9+ acre estate in 1990 for $47.5million - at the time the highest price ever paid for a private residence in the United States.

When I had my best career opportunities several times, I walked away from them because it always meant spending too much time in the city. To this day, I'm just camping inside my own place, but I own the title to it, and I live in a beautiful area with an excellent outdoors lifestyle.

Geffen lied on his resume to the William Morris ad agency, and he spent a lot of time checking the mail so he could cover his tracks at work. I spent of lot of time concealing my tape deck in a stealth-kit I built inside a guitar case to cover my tracks, and I lied to the security dudes about it when I taped shows where they worked.

"All" or "none" is a really poor menu to choose from for us working stiffs... there must be a better way? Life is a risky business. I believe we need more opportunities, not less. It's perfectly clear to me that my little world came entirely from flanking the system. My world happened because of the Grateful Dead, Bear, Alembic, and Ampex. I owe them everything in my life for the past forty years. They built me. Before that, I was the punk from NJ for twenty-one years, and I'm proud of that too.

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: Reade Date: Nov 22, 2012 9:32am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: American Masters (indirectly Dead related if you follow me))

I believe the context for the 'unfailingly honest' comment was clear. That is his clients, those he represented as a music agent, all agreed he never scammed a single one of them for a nickel. Pretty remarkable I thought given the industry 'standards,' given how badly the Dead were ripped off (not once but at least twice), etc.
Yes he lied about graduating from UCLA to land his gig at the William Morris agency in the early 60s but don't see how that has anything to do with his impeccable professionalism in representing musicians.

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: Monte B Cowboy Date: Nov 22, 2012 11:37am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: American Masters (indirectly Dead related if you follow me))

I compared the guy to myself. We're at opposite ends of the spectrum was my point. Lying on his resume and revealing the truth about it is very admirable. No one would know this unless he was honest about it. The way he covered his tracks is clever, and I enjoyed that.

No one is perfectly impeccable, as far as I know. The Eagles were pretty unhappy about Geffen selling them to Warner without telling them anything up front, and they said so. They were managed and run by Geffen and Asylum. The Eagles trusted Geffen with everything. They read in the papers that Asylum had merged with Elektra. That's how The Eagles learned they had been sold by Geffen to Warner Communications. Geffen never told them anything. That's pretty heavy stuff.

Also, Geffen sued Neil Young for falling short on his expectations to produce profits after he hired Neil to be creative in the first place. Neil was pretty unhappy about Geffen suing him for trying to be creative - when that's what he was hired to do, and he said so. That was pretty funny, but I wouldn't want to be sued by this guy. Geffen dropped the lawsuit later on.

There were plenty of betrayal stories to go around in this documentary. Geffen and myself hated betrayals and we both admire honesty and loyalty. I respect him for that, and I said so. My experiences as broadcast engineer in the entertainment industry are full of betrayals and scams. I was burned several times on deals. I know nothing of this business from his end, and I am saying so. I thought it was a good story.

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: Reade Date: Nov 23, 2012 10:14am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: American Masters (indirectly Dead related if you follow me))

The clips of what Young was up to in the early eighties were pretty hilarious ('Sample and Hold'). Some pretty goofy stuff in retrospect. It's one of those deals where I can totally understand where both parties were coming from in that dispute. And to Geffin's credit he dropped the suit after thinking better of it.
The Eagles issue was a business deal and yeah it was cold for the whole thing to go down that way, without he Geffen even telling them. But as the film makes clear he was responsible- in every way- for their mega-success in the first place.
More interesting to me in that instance was how the film made clear the business model for Asylum Records (taking unknowns with alot of talent, paying their rent, dentist bills, etc., while they honed their craft and found their creative voice) proved unsustainable after the artists in question got famous and rich. What's left at that point? Trying to get Crosby's special weed to him in NY, making sure others had the right color of M&Ms in their dressing room...?
A stunning illustration of how an idea, concept, business model, whatever, can become outdated even given Outrageous Success initially. Things change no matter what! Which might be another Grateful Dead tie-in to this story.

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: Monte B Cowboy Date: Nov 22, 2012 2:59pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: American Masters (indirectly Dead related if you follow me))

Here is my first impression of the American Masters documentary about Merle Haggard. I felt compelled to bring some discussion about him also, namely, "Merle the Pearl" is a Texas Playboys' alumni!!!
On July 21, 2010, PBS released a new episode of American Masters on Merle Haggard. His most notable early era band was Merle Haggard and The Strangers. The film doesn't disclose accurately, as Deadheads will immediately point out, Merle Haggard's songs Mama Tried was performed over 300 times by GD, and Sing Me Back Home was performed around 40 times by GD. The film leaves an impression that Merle is straight country and western. Maybe it's true this is his legacy. What wasn't emphasized nearly enough in this documentary is Merle Haggard's amazing contribution to Western Swing music. Western Swing Music is also known as Texas swing, cowboy swing, or country swing. The music was made famous by Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. Merle played and recorded with Bob Wills.

please read this thread about it: